Thursday, June 2, 2011

I guess "Moderate Couponing" just doesn't have the same ring to it...

If you’ve known me for any length of time, it will not surprise you in any way that last week while waiting on my beloved to come home from a particularly long day at work, I occupied my time by wrapping the Christmas presents that I had stashed in my closet. Since February.

Due to this fact, it may not surprise you that I have 4 jars of peanut butter in my cabinet right now. I also have in my beautiful pantry at least ten jars of pasta sauce, twenty or more boxes of dried pasta, twelve pounds of white sugar, at least ten pounds of all-purpose flour, and twenty bottles of barbecue sauce (we freaking love barbecue sauce and use it the same way some people use ketchup).On the floor of my linen closet all neatly lined in rows sits about six months worth of laundry detergent and in my bathroom, under the sink, at least five bottles of body wash. There are some people who probably think we have way too much and then there are other people, like my husband, who say things like, “We’re getting low on pasta sauce, babe. There’s only ten left.”

Ladies and Gentlemen, in case it’s not apparent? I’m a couponer.

I don’t really talk about this much. I’m not ashamed of it or anything. But really, what is there to say? I use coupons. I’ve always kind of casually used coupons and then our income went down for a while and it stressed me out and going to the grocery store always left me feeling angry and bitter and I started using coupons more. Our income improved, but I kept on using the coupons. Why not? I like saving money. I like being well prepared. I like having a choice of four different cereals in the morning. Cereal is delicious.

I never got really crazy about coupons, save the one time last summer that the local Kroger had a ½ off cereal sale and I couldn’t sleep the night before because I was so excited at the prospect of free breakfast foods. Since then, I’ve pretty much toned down even the smallest impulse to be insane like that (there was like 1200 boxes of cereal when I got to the store, so my concern about not getting my four boxes was completely unwarranted) and focused entirely on saving about 50% on our grocery bills while only buying things we actually like and will use, which I find quite awesome. Unfortunately, because this is America and by God we have to do everything possible in a ridiculous manner, there is a show on TLC called “Extreme Couponing”. Apparently a lot of people have been watching this show as my Facebook feed is full of posts about how people want to learn to shop like that. In my local CVS I recently saw a red-faced woman with a cart stuffed full of Pepsi products screaming, literally screaming, at the elderly cashier about how she wouldn’t let her buy all of the products and get the rewards back, even though the ad clearly said “One per customer”. I don’t have a Harris Teeter in my town, but my friends who do told me horror stories of cleared shelves, other shoppers plucking items from their carts whilst their backs were turned, and small children getting run over with shopping carts at a recent “Triples” event.

It’s getting out of control. Seriously.

I told myself that I would not watch this show. I swore it. But, alas. One weekend I found myself home alone (rare) and instead of doing anything productive like, you know, the dishes, I instead turned on TLC and thought, “Eh. What could it hurt?”

My brain. That’s what it hurt. My brain.

Because it’s television. It’s not only television; it’s scripted “reality” television. The worst kind of television (ironically, also the kind of television I seem to watch the very most). Every episode thus far seems to have the same formula. Individual shows us massive amounts of coupons they obtain either by dumpster diving, asking/stealing from neighbors, or straight from the hands of Jesus. They go to the store to obtain the “biggest haul ever”. At the register once every bit of their groceries have been scanned they say something like, “I do not have the twelve hundred dollars required to pay this total in my pocket!” The register locks up, a coupon scans incorrectly or gets lost at the register, and the couponer gets a strained look of dismay upon their face. All the coupons are finally scanned, usually with the assistance of a store manager/IT department/Jesus ,the couponer pays the $0.11 for the $1800 worth of “groceries” (mostly candy, red hot dogs, and Ramen-type noodles) they purchased and then miraculously all of these products are then placed in the boot of their Toyota Tercel for the journey homeward where they add the hot mess that they purchased to the stockpile they already have, which is spilling out into every area of their home including under their children’s beds, in their master bathroom and possibly in the doghouse outside.

You know why they do all this?

Because it’s not real. It’s a television show. It’s. not. real.

A lot of the items they purchase are pre-ordered. Have you ever walked into the Food City and saw 254 bottles of Heinz 57 sauce on the shelf? Of course not. I would bet money they are either told or “strongly encouraged” to obtain the “largest haul ever” (why else would they all say that?). Have you ever been to a grocery store and observed a special lane open just for one shopper? I know I never have. And don’t even get me started on the fraud that was committed on one of the episodes. My blood pressure will go up and nobody wants that.

I live in a state that charges considerable sales tax. In addition, my items are taxed pre-coupon price. If I bought $1800 worth of body wash and had 900 individual coupons that made every single bottle free (which would never happen, ever) I would still pay $166.50 just for the tax. Straight up. $166.50 is a pretty amazing price for 900 bottles of body wash, though. I promise you I would not fret at the register that it wasn’t all totally free. Oh and also? I would never buy 900 bottles of body wash.

You shouldn’t either.

Because I promise you, sales come back around. This is not the only time ever for as long as you will be alive that body wash will be on sale. If you did happen to have 1100 tubes of toothpaste, eventually it will expire unless you real talk made your living eating toothpaste and got super fattie-fattie-boombalattie doing so(which I think would give you the squats, so make sure you stock up on toilet paper too). Do you enjoy having a bug problem in your home? Then, please. Feel free to buy every bag of Lays potato chips the store has to offer and complain loudly to the stock boy (who doesn’t care by the way) that there were only sixty-five bags on the shelf. Want to embarrass the hell out of your children? Then by all means get into a screaming match with the bored individual running the register at the local Wal-Mart store when she tells you that you can’t use that coupon because the picture doesn’t match the product you are trying to purchase. You may be right, in fact you probably ARE right, but do you really want to behave that way? Is that the example you want for your kids? Do you really want someone to call you “That crazy coupon bitch”? Do you want to get banned from a store? I sure don’t. I have enough problems and don’t need to add “the po-po shut me down at the Food Lion” to the list.

I encourage everyone to coupon, because I honestly see no reason that everyone shouldn’t. If you are going to buy ketchup and you can save $0.75 on said ketchup, why wouldn’t you? However, I do not encourage anyone, ever, to “extreme” coupon (also, please don’t “extreme” drive, hang-glide, or give birth. None of those sound like they would work out well either). Not unless you are on television, and probably not even then.

I encourage everyone to stockpile in reasonable quantities when prices are low and I further encourage everyone to determine what a reasonable quantity is for their family. Personally, I wouldn’t get so much of anything that there was even the slightest potential that it might expire before I could use it all up. I hate waste. My family will easily use up every bit of the barbecue sauce we have long before the expiration dates, but if your family generally only uses two bottles a year, you probably don’t need two hundred, even if they are free.

I encourage everyone to make themselves familiar with the store policies at whatever store you happen to be shopping at. Further, I not only encourage, but beg of you. Please, please, please do not yell or scream at any cashier, especially the elderly ones. It breaks my heart to see little old women who should be enjoying their grandchildren and their golden years being verbally abused by people in stores. It literally makes me sick. Even if the cashier is being a complete bag of dick hair to you, please continue to behave yourself in a kind, reasonable manner. I have never, ever had a cashier question me or be rude to me in any way, even when I’ve used several coupons at a time, and I really believe it’s because I maintain a friendly, pleasant attitude with them. Also, I live in the South and people are generally pretty nice and don’t bless your heart until you are out of hearing range. But still. You catch more flies and all that.

My family has plenty. We are lucky and I get that. Last year I saved over $2000 just on groceries with very minimal effort. I don’t spend hours clipping coupons or chasing sales. I don’t have the time nor desire to do so. I love saving money and I highly, highly encourage it. The peace of mind I get from money in the bank is pretty priceless. It also helps me to say “yes” to things that I didn’t always get to say yes to before. Things like summer camp and pretty dresses. I love pretty dresses (and yes, I use eBates and coupon codes when I buy them).

If you are going to be a couponer, be a courteous one. Please.

And don’t believe everything you see on television. Except if you are the Girl Child and you are watching 16 and Pregnant. Believe every single bit of how awful that is.


cfoxes33 said...

I am with you on this. I did go purchase 3 bottles of dish soap last weekend, but I will not buy 50 boxes of cat litter because they are free (and I do not own a cat). I do not understand buying things I don't need, just for a "rush". But it's fun trying to get my bill down to something more reasonable than $80 - $100 a week. My daughter says watching EXTREME COUPONERS stresses her out and gives her a headache.

But I do let her watch 16 AND PREGNANT as much as possible because that show is pretty brutal!

Angie said...

As usual, you have said many of the things I've thought. . . and a few things I didn't. But, that's what I like about you.

Principled Slut said...

"Extreme Couponing" should be the lead-in show to "Hoarders". And really... these people spend HOURS every week dumpster-diving and clipping coupons and scouring ads and running to just the right stores... this is LIVING? If they don't have a job, they could get one and easily pay for the supplies they need, and have much more of a life. And if they have a job, do they not want ANY time to live?

Meredith said...

My cousin is a die-hard couponer, but she would often resell her stuff at garage sales. She quit her job to care for her son, who she adopted from Guatamala and then discovered he has major mental and physical limitations, so it supplemented her husband's income. They have since divorced, and she had to get a job but it's nowhere near what her husband brought home, so again - she's supplementing her income this way and keeping her own expenses low.

But one needs 65 bags of chips.

oldmom said...

Another option when you are able to use a coupon to acquire more barbeque sauce, cereal or other needed items than you can use before they expire would be to donate the excess to your church or other food pantry for those who are in need. Double feel good from one coupon:)

val said...

Oh my gosh. I did a two month stint as a grocery cashier a couple years ago.

Most entertaining job EVER. I loved it, and would still be ringing groceries now, except it paid NOTHING.

But you.

You nailed it.

I was warned about mean customers, and yet I never, ever had one.

They were all patient and polite, even when the store was out of their personal cigarette brand, they kept it together.

Even the ones with dozens of coupons stayed civilized.

But there were a few...with issues...

Wheee. love, Val

Amy W said...

I was wondering how accurate that show was. I try to coupon, but only use about $10-$20 of coupons a week. But I guess that still adds up!

Jenski said...

Great post. It drives me crazy when my bf lets coupons expire that I give him for the particular brand of yogurt he is partial to. Just doesn't make sense! Why not save $1.50 on 6 yogurts you are going to buy anyway?

Sandy said...

I love this! Well said!